A new selection of books I’ve read, with work from Haldor Laxness, Kevin Smith, Thich Nhat Hanh and Chris Hardwick.
Haldor Laxness – Iceland’s Bell
“Have you ever seen Iceland rise from the sea?” Asks the protagonist of the Icelandic people Arnas Arnaeus at some point in this book. That sentence stuck with me in this novel by Nobel price winner Haldor Laxness about the impoverished people in Iceland during the Danish reign. The book consists out of three parts, of which the second and third are the more serious ones. The first part mainly features Jón Hreggvidson, a farmer who happens to be at the wrong places all the time and instead of getting his head lobt of ends up travelling all the way to Danmark to plea for his case.
The other character is a noble lady from Iceland who is instrumental in the continued existance of Jón Hreggvidson and embodies a different Iceland. She and Arnaeus have a bond, a romance that is like the fleeting romance Iceland has with its liberty. It never truly comes to pass in the book but always seems near. There’s a lot of black and bleak humor in the book, specially on the account of the Icelandic population, personified in crook and fool Hreggvidson, who the reader cannot but love, regardless of all his foolish behaviours and constant reciting of the same ballad. It’s a book that instills a love and sympathy for that strange island. Well worth reading, specially thanks to its complex symbolism and folk like telling style.
Chris Hardwick – The Nerdist Way
I started on ‘The Nerdist Way’, because I felt particularly in need of something to help me elevate my spirits. Originally I expected to find a fun book about the life of Chris Hardwick, but it turned out to be a very well intended self-help book for people with the same sort of obsessive syndroms and social awkwardness as him. Something I can relate to, but also filled with that particular humor, filled with self-deflating jokes. I was impressed by the upbeat nature and strenght of the book, which is an honest attempt to make a difference and really help people.
At various points Hardwick admits he is not a professional and suggests seeking professional help if you as a reader deal with specific problems. He talks about an attitude in life, a generally healthy lifestyle and even gives advice when it comes to excersising. The book outlines an alternative for those of us that have caught the nerd syndrome of sticking to the indoors. This book can really give you some motivation to make some changes and thus be living your life to the fullest. Chris Hardwick is an inspirational figure, not just in what he does, but also where he comes from. His punchline for this book seems to be: “I’ve been at my worst and now at my best, so I just want to try and share this so aothers can learn from it.” It really works because of that sheer honesty.
Thich Nhat Hanh – Living Buddha, Living Christ
In this book the Vietnamese monk is attempting to define the underlying similarities between most big religious movements in the world. It’s a praise worthy attempt, because Thich Nhat Hanh seems to be spot on with a lot of things. He succesfully peels of the layers of dogmatism and classic indoctrination to reach the essential meaning of religious movements. He lists similarities between the Buddha and Christ, leaving out a lof of the fundamentelist motives inherent to various religions In that way, he sincerely opens up the dialogue with an open mind.
The author also describes the dismayed responses he has gotten over time, but points out that as religions learn from eachother, they can also remain relevant. This touches upon an issue that pretty much every major religion seems to face in recent times: loss of touch with the followers. Speaking from my own knowledge, I see that less and less people are visiting church. Some people rejoice over this, but I see it as a spiritual bankrupcy and I’m fairly sure that we’ll start seeing that some time in the future. I feel happy that books like this excist, offering a third way of finding a spirituality through the things that you find appealing in various religions, atleast I think Thich Nhat Hanh grants us that liberty, as long as we do it sincerely and respectfully.
Kevin Smith – Tough Shit: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good
So I continued with this biographical book by Kevin Smith. Smith is one of my favorite directors, whose films I think I’ve all watched. Red State is the last in line and Im planning to watch this very soon. In this book Smith talks about his life and whatever stuff happened to him in the same way his characters talk in the early films. So yeah, there’s a lot of metaphors involving dick jokes and such, but one needs to get over that to find the gold underneath, which is various life lessons and hilarious anecdotes about a lot of weird stuff and the film industry.
There’s also going to be a lot of Clerks being mentioned. I feel a bit of embarrasment now and then about the direct words used by Smith, but that just says more about me. I recommend this book for the simple reason that it is hilarious and cathartic. Im pretty sure that Kevin Smith has faced enough tribulations in his own way. Sure, there’ s that whole different level where it takes place, in Hollywood and all. Still, this is transferrable to real life and sure as hell we all need some advice from a fat man who did good.
Oh, there’s also bits about Jay & Silent Bob, Dogma, Clerks, Chasing Amy, Jersey Girl, Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis.